We are going back to the breath in this post. Becoming aware of our breath is the most important exercise in mindfulness. It’s that simple.
Breathing is at the heart of mindfulness. It grounds us in the moment of inhale and through our exhale. Our breath is our most trusted guide, if we can learn the practice of being attuned to the different emotions that come through with each flow of air in our bodies.
Slow exhale is a breathing exercise that triggers our parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is referred to as the rest and digest system, because of its ability to slow our heart rates, relax our sphincter muscles, and aids our intestinal activity.
How to do the Slow Exhale Breathing Exercise:
- Allow yourself to relax in a seated position.
- Take a natural breath in as you begin.
- As you exhale, gently pull your abdominal muscles in towards your spine on your exhale, pushing the air out slowly from your lungs.
- Breathe in again naturally.
- As you exhale, think of the air as a wave, using your abdominal muscles to let the air out from your mouth or nose.
- Continue until you feel like you have mastered the slow exhale.
When things get complicated in life, remember to go back to your breath. If you are interested in learning another breathing exercise, try the Square Breathing Exercise.
All aboard! Climb aboard the Bernina Express in Chur, Switzerland to begin your journey through the majestic Alps.
You will pass through an UNESCO World Heritage Site, marvel at the feats of engineering of bridges and tunnels, gorge on beautiful mountain peak views (including the Matterhorn.)
There’s a Miniatures park that re-creates in meticulous detail the buildings, mountains, and valleys of Switzerland. Or stroll through the Italian town of Lugano, steeped in Italian culture, and stop for a gelato in one of the many cafes.
Enjoy, and happy (armchair) travels!
After I relocated my family to the North Shore almost 4 years ago, I’ve been discovering the therapeutic value of exploring the many beautiful trails surrounding us. Outdoor therapy uses walking and talking in nature to provide growth experiences that can help people make fundamental, positive, and lasting changes in our lives. I work with a wide range of emotional and behavioural issues, which span from grief and loss, brain injury, and beyond. Much like our bodies need movement, our thought patterns that keep us stuck need movement too.
If you’re ready to get un-stuck, together we can walk the trails of the North Shore and move forward with life in ways that you want to. Always having my sights on solutions and possibilities helps me stay the course with the individuals with whom I walk alongside. I invite you to contact me, to explore how connecting with nature can help you on your caregiving journey.
MSW, Registered Clinical Social Worker
Ideas are always welcome! What are your favourite walks in North or West Vancouver ? We would be glad to hear about it! We might even plan to have one of our Walk & Talks in a new location.
Here are some local trails to inspire your walking feet:
“There’s a certain feeling of giving, a certain feeling of generosity in love songs. When you sing a song of love, you’re actually giving something to yourself, too. You’re singing and casting these affirmations of love out into the universe.” -Jason Mraz
Do you love to sing? Even if we don’t have the perfect singing voice, many of us enjoy singing in secret. We belt out our favourite tunes in the shower, in our cars, as we clean up the house. The truth is we sing because it makes us feel good.
Research show that music relieves stress and anxiety. Singing only enhances the benefits by additionally regulating your breath and connecting you more mindfully with the melodies of the song.
Here are 6 ideas to incorporate more singing into your life:
- Make a soundtrack of songs that make you happy, uplift you, make you smile for those days when you need to change your tune.
- Put on some music while you are cleaning your house or getting stuff done. (Bonus points for using household items as microphones.)
- Turn up the volume on your car radio and allow yourself to sing without inhibition even when you are at a stop light and other people might hear you.
- Play an old CD that reminds you of good memories and let loose on the vocals.
- Look up the lyrics to a song you want to learn and practice singing it.
- Aim for those unreachable high notes even if your voice squeaks. You just might laugh instead.
If you are really enjoying singing, you might decide to pull out that guitar that you’ve long since abandoned or dust off those piano keys to accompany your voice. Even counter-tops make good bongo drums if you feel inspired.
What are your favourite songs to sing? Let us know in the comment section above.
1.The Caregivers by Nell Lake, Non-Fiction
The book, The Caregivers, by Nell Lake, is non-fiction, but reads like a good fiction novel. The author spent two years as an observer in a support group for people caring for elderly and/or ill spouses, parents, and friends. The book chronicles the daily experiences of these people and the variety of challenges they each face. The author also points out future challenges to existing medical and support systems as we become an increasingly aging population (the baby boom tsunami of elderly is moving rapidly).
It reminded me so much of Karyn’s group – we too, are there to listen and learn, share and support through our common experience as caregivers.
Available at North Vancouver City Library and the North Vancouver District Public Library.
2. They Left Us Everything: A Memoir by Plum Johnson
I also enjoyed They Left Us Everything: a Memoir by Plum Johnson. This is a true Canadian story, set in Ontario. After the death of first her father, then her mother, the author takes up residence and sets out to “discard and declutter” items from her parent’s family home It is not an easy task, as she attempts to do this. Memories and observations highlight her past relationships with her parents and siblings.
The blurb from the library states: “A funny, touching memoir about the importance of preserving family history to make sense of the past and nurturing family bonds to safeguard the future.”
Available at North Vancouver City Library, West Vancouver Memorial Library, and the North Vancouver District Public Library.
-Susan, A Caregiver
For anyone who has been told “Ask for help,” when you feel you are struggling to cope with your caregiver responsibilities, Karyn found an excellent article called “Don’t Give Advice to People Who Are Drowning” by Susan Macaulay, published on The Caregiver Network website.
Here’s a quote from the article:
“Ask for help,” is a tip I’ve found on just about every Alzheimer’s dementia care website I’ve ever visited.
A woman wades into the sea. She walks out from the safety of the beach. Suddenly the sea floor drops off and she gets caught in a powerful current. She starts to drown. People on the beach notice. A crowd of onlookers gathers at the shoreline. The crowd includes several lifeguards. Everybody watches as the woman drowns. “Call for help! Call for help!” Some of them yell at her, but no one, including the lifeguards, does anything. No one steps into the water. No one tries to save her. No one tries to help her save herself.
Do you relate to this article? Please let us know in the comment section above.
“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills.” -Audrey Hepburn
We need a good laugh today.
Laughter is really the best medicine, despite the cliche. Researchers found that laughing reduces stress by triggering our body’s endorphins. Our endorphins give us a feeling of well-being and pleasure. They can even reduce pain.
The purpose of laughing meditation is to evoke the feelings of happiness and to enjoy it mindfully. It also acts to release your body’s tension.
How to do a laughing meditation:
- Find a comfortable place to practice your meditation. Do a few stretches to settle in place.
- Take a few minutes to breathe before you get started.
- Slowly, start to turn the corners of your mouth upward into a smile.
- Think of something funny.
- Allow yourself to laugh. Start with a giggle and if you can, try to get going into some roaring laughter.
- Bring your attention to how you feel when you laugh, while letting go of any negative or self-criticizing thoughts.
- When you want to end, bring your body back to stillness for a few minutes before continuing your day.
If you have trouble recalling funny things, develop a practice of cultivating humour in your life so that you have more to laugh about in your meditation. Visit a joke store or ask your friends to tell you their zingers. Watch a hilarious movie or read the funnies in the newspaper. Or even, take a night out with friends to visit a comedy club like Yuk Yuk’s or The Comedy Mix.
You deserve a good laugh.
With the Ambleside and Lonsdale farmers’ markets opening for the season, get inspired by local produce and try this recipe. Tabouleh bulgur wheat salad is a refreshing dish because of the use of fresh herbs. With the addition of a bulgur wheat, the salad is more than a nice side dish. It’s a meal.
How to make Tabouleh Bulgur Wheat Salad:
1/2 cup cooked bulgur wheat (or substitute with quinoa or couscous)
1 to 2 large bunches of parsley, chopped
1 bunch of mint, chopped
1 small red onion
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 small cucumber
1/4 cup of olive oil
- Put your cooked bulgur wheat and chopped mint, parsley, red onion, tomatoes, and cucumber into a bowl.
- Lightly toss the salad in olive oil and squeeze lemon juice over top to your taste. You may want to add a dash of salt and pepper.
- Let the tabouleh salad chill in your fridge for an hour, mixing the ingredients once half an hour through. This gives your salad time to marinate in the dressing.
- Serve and enjoy!
If you liked this meal salad, check out our recipe for Yam and Black Bean Salad.
The Family Caregivers Association of BC has been sharing helpful resources for BC’s Family Caregiver Week.
The first resource is the Family Caregiver Information Package, which covers many topics on caregiver well-being and burn-out. While this resource is available online, you can also request a hard copy by giving them a call at 1.877.520.3267 (toll free).
Other resources they have shared include their many taped webinars, podcasts, and hand-outs. Topics include advocacy skills and navigating the health care system. Peruse their site and see if any of the topics resonate for you.
Woman raising her hands at sunrise
On Sunday, May 1st, I volunteered for a very good cause: Alzheimer’s disease. Did you know that 1 in 4 Canadians over the age of 85 will get Alzheimer’s?
In total, $10,000 was raised by participants in this year’s Walk for Memories. A caregiver and her husband who suffers from Alzheimer’s gave a very moving presentation, and then we were off to Dundarave pier and back. Teams of staff from Sunrise and Nurses Next Door held their banners high.
Gulls, kayakers, seadoos, and joggers were all out there enjoying the sunshine.
It is a very worthy cause indeed.